One of the biggest and most controversial films of 2013 is no doubt Spike Lee’s OldBoy. Arriving ten years after Korean director Chan-wook Park’s cult-classic adaptation of Nobuaki Minegishi’s manga, the American OldBoy is proving to be a different sort of beast; trailers and behind-the-scenes featurettes about the film (even the viral marketing materials) have slowly but surely revealed some deeper themes and social commentary at work in Lee’s version. But is this slightly altered version of a tale of revenge and tragedy a beast that fans will embrace?
The cast and crew of the film came to New York Comic Con 2013 to find out.
- The panel started with some introductory footage from the film it combined much of what we saw in the OldBoy trailer with character moments featuring stars Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson.
- The entire theater was then flooded with trademark OldBoy geishas, as panelists arrived. In attendance were writer Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend), Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) and Pom Klementieff.
- Protosevich started off talking about why and how he remade the original, stressing that he loves the original film and that he, Spike Lee and co. honored it in their remake.
- Imperioli talked about his character, who is a childhood friend of Josh Brolin’s Joe, and gets caught up in the web of revenge.
- Pom revealed that she is a female version of Mr. Han from the original. She is a girl, folks. No mistake about that.
- A CLIP from the film followed a scene in which Joe follows a man from a local chinese restaurant to the hotel prison where he was held for 20 years. He brutally dispatches three of the thugs working there – until he runs into the manager, played by Samuel L. Jackson. You may have seen the moment with Brolin and Jackson featured in the OldBoy red-band trailer. TRUST US: it’s much more twisted than what the trailer implies.
- Imperioli and Pom talked about working with Spike Lee as a vet and a newcomer, respectively. Both had nothing but praise for the director – albeit for very different reasons and from different perspectives.
- Protosevich reminds the crowd that he originally came on during the phase of the remake that had Will Smith and Steven Spielberg attached. He stuck with it when they left on the strength of the material and the love of his adaptation.
- Protosevich added an anecdote revealing that Spike Lee and he watched the original film – but Spike really loved his version of it. He never really read the manga before taking on the job of writing the script. He pointed out that the manga is VERY different than the Korean film.
- The Q&A ironically started with a guy named Joe. He asked what impressed the panelists while making the film. Imperioli said that Pom’s martial arts – which she only learned for the film – impressed him. Pom herself took away actual martial arts.
- Protosevich talked about the choice to imprison Joe for 20 years, and spending a week on a set shooting Brolin as Joe in his two decade lockdown. The physical transformation of Brolin and challenge of the shoot stuck with him.
- The following questions basically centered around the question of “why remake OldBoy?” Protosevich pointed out that ‘Hollywood exploitation’ accusations aren’t very sound, since the dark nature of the movie doesn’t exactly make it ripe for blockbuster cash in. After that he mostly repeated the same love of the original over and over again.
- Protosevich took on the question of whether remakes are worthwhile as exact copies or altered visions. He used song covers as an analogy for how taking something loved, and still remaking it your own way, can (and has) result in a wonderful new thing people embrace.
- When asked if there was any trepidation taking on such controversial remake, Imperioli said working with Spike Lee again made it a no-brainer; Pom added (with fierce determination in her eyes) “No hesitation was possible.”
- Pom shared her loss of a toenail story with the crowd. The moderator (creepily) added that they could probably sell her loss toenail on Ebay. He’s probably right.
- The topic of the “remake” label came up. Since there are changes, is OldBoy a remake? Protosevich reiterated that some of his favorite films (like Cronenberg’s The Fly) are remakes where ‘the song sounds the same’ but slightly different.
- Pom described working with Sharlto Copley, describing him as an intellectual actor who taught here alot.
- Imperioli described bonding with Brolin and the intense physical transformations that he went through – not to mention the stuntwork. Pom called him a generous actor.
- A clever fan pointed out that the clip we saw featured Brolin stealing a garish bike – a nice recall of an iconic scene from Goonies where the actor did the same thing. He thanked Protosevich for that.
- Protosevich (without SPOILERS) talked about iconic moments from the original that they were absolutely going to use (hammer fight scene?), while other things (Asian cultural tropes needed to be changed.
Oldboy will be in theaters on November 27, 2013.
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